(CNSNews) – On June 13, Spotify announced it was creating a “Safety Advisory Council” to help make its content-moderation policies more equitable and effective. The move comes amid a recent push to become “more transparent about…safety efforts,” said the audio streaming service (music and podcasts).
Spotify has been harshly criticized by liberal/left activists in recent months for allowing certain libertarian and conservative ideas to be broadcast on its platform, such as podcaster Joe Rogan’s views on COVID-19 and treatment with Ivermectin.
In its press release, the company said the Safety Advisory Council’s goal is to “help Spotify evolve its policies and products in a safe way while making sure we respect creator expression.”
The statement lists the members of the council, but also says Spotify will expand the committee “with the goal of broadening regional and linguistic representation, as well as adding additional experts in the equity and impact space.”
Brian Bradley, an associate editor at Free Speech America, said Spotify organized the council to “chill free speech,” and added that “those who aren’t progressive enough are at risk of getting purged.”
Bradley expressed concern that this effort was a step towards the stricter moderation policies of platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. “Safety is often cited before organizations roll out draconian rules,” he told CNS News. “There’s no reason to expect Spotify’s so-called dedication to ‘safety’ will result in positive change.”
Members of the council include controversial figures such as Mary Anne Franks whose book, The Cult of the Constitution, argues that the “liberal fetish for the First Amendment” bends the Constitution in the service of “white male supremacy.”
Another council member is the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which describes itself as “the leading think tank in the world studying diversity and inclusion in entertainment.” The group Kinzen “helps protect online communities and conversations from dangerous misinformation and hateful content.” Dr. Christer Mattson is a Safety Advisory Council member and his bio states he is “an internationally recognized scholar in the field of neo-Nazism and right-wing extremism.”
Apparently, there are no leading libertarian or conservative advisors on Spotify’s new Safety Advisory Council.
The council’s role reportedly is advisory. Spotify claimed “council members will not make enforcement decisions about specific content or creators.”
However, Bradley said, “It’s hard to believe Spotify won’t make enforcement decisions about ‘specific content or creators’ when they say in the very next sentence that the council will influence Spotify’s content moderation policies and processes.”
Earlier this year, Spotify was embroiled in two notable controversies concerning its creator content policies and “The Joe Rogan Experience.” “The Joe Rogan Experience,” hosted by comedian Joe Rogan, is currently Spotify’s number one podcast.
In late January, Canadian-American musician Neil Young decided to remove his music from Spotify, he said, because of the “unfactual, misleading and false COVID information on Spotify.” At the time, Rolling Stone reported that Young’s original statement singled out Rogan’s podcast as the reason he was leaving the platform.
Singer India.Arie followed Young’s lead a few days later, pulling her content from Spotify because of its treatment of artists, as well as Rogan’s “language around race.” In early February, India.Arie shared a compilation of Rogan saying the n-word on Instagram, causing another scandal.
Spotify’s decision occurs at a time of national debate over tech companies’ approach to moderating speech on their platforms. A 1996 law, known as Section 230(c), says internet companies that allow users to publish their own content, such as Spotify, YouTube, or Instagram, are not considered publishers and cannot be sued for actions taken in good faith to restrict objectionable content on their site.
The law is often criticized by conservatives. For instance, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) contends that tech companies should not be able to censor people based on their political viewpoints on modern-day public squares. Texas recently passed a law banning such “viewpoint discrimination” and is currently defending that law from a lawsuit.
Disclosure: Free Speech America is a division of the Media Research Center, the parent organization of CNS News.com.
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